Western Genre is True America

Western Genre is True America

Folks might ask, what’s such a big deal about another western? In an age where we’re told that America is unexceptional, patriotism is down, church attendance has dropped precipitously, and young marrieds are afraid to raise families, the western genre is a very big deal.

Edgy adventure, tough hombres, and romance set at the close of the War Between the States on the historical Texas frontier of 1864 blaze from the pages of Nueces Truth: Texans Face War’s Realities. It’s more than classic western fare. The characters and the story are fictional, but their personifications existed even as I’ve worked in actual historical figures of the time. Real events are juxtaposed against a backdrop of rugged but wildly beautiful landscapes. War had swept the nation! Most of Texas’ best men joined the fight, leaving the Texas frontier vulnerable to desperadoes, bandits, and hostile Indians. Luke Dunn’s life is caught up with law and order on the rough and tumble and increasingly war-ravaged prairies of the Nueces Strip while struggling with fundamental moral conflicts and his obligations to wife and family. This reveals an inherent contradiction in terms associated with western genre, not the least of which is its malleability as it’s transitioned from gun fights and good versus evil to more complicated stories. Mingled with the aromas of gunsmoke, leather, trail dust, and bluebonnets are riptides of the forging a life in a rough and tumble world. Plus, western authors are obligated to deliver rapid-fire pacing of action and plot as increasingly demanded by readers in an immediate gratification culture. This adaptation brands western genre as the very backbone of truly American literature, enabling it to endure since its gestation in the early 1800s. It defies credulity that western genre grabs little more than seven percent of readers of fiction. Authors and publishers are left to wonder at what the marketplace is afraid of? Those who blithely toss out. “Oh, I don’t read westerns,” ought to think again, as the genre is ever-inspired to reinvent itself. As to Luke Dunn in Nueces Truth: Texans Face War’s Realities, well, I’ve striven to deliver a character for whom a broader readership might seek. As is traditional with western genre, just about anywhere he rides, death could be reaching for his reins. But Dunn is more complicated. Comanche call him Ghost-Who-Rides, his and young Elisa’s ardor knows no bounds, rogue soldiers pose clear and present dangers, a not-so-civil war rages on, issues of man’s inhumanity to man must be dealt with, savages fight back against their certain demise, and everything converges at Heaven’s Gate Ranch in little Nuecestown, Texas. With Nueces Truth: Texans Face War’s Realities, I invite you to celebrate American exceptionalism, renew your patriotic vibe, rekindle your faith, and rebuild an optimistic view of your future.

Censorship Kills Cultures

Our nation’s Constitution keeps government from abridging free speech but doesn’t stop social media, publishers, and other private entities from doing so.  It’s about censorship.  Censorship takes many forms, though I’m talking about censorship of the writing arts in this post.  My recent experience at the Western Writers of America Convention in Colorado brought me face-to-face with the subject.   It was notable that Owen Wister Award winner Kathleen O’Neal reminded attendees that “killing the story kills the culture.”  For me, it was akin to being double-struck by lightning.  Seems many of my fellow authors have dealt with censorship in its various ugly forms, while I’ve been lucky enough to mostly avoid the problem.  I think.  Then again, Judy Blume in Places I Never Meant To Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers wrote, “In this age of censorship, I mourn the loss of books that will never be written, I mourn the voices that will be silenced–writers’ voices, teachers’ voices, students’ voices–all because of fear. How many have resorted to self-censorship? How many are saying to themselves, “Nope…can’t write about that. Can’t teach that book. Can’t have that book in our collection. Can’t let my student write that editorial in the school paper.”  I thought on the words of those two ladies.  Dang, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I have yielded just a bit, have self-censored.  I’ve kept the F-bomb out of my novels…found euphemisms for the N-word.  And I’m not even being kept in line by the “sensitivity readers” typical of the big New York publishing houses.  It occurs to me that it’s intellectually dishonest.  For one thing we dare not change history to make it more palatable.  Likely as not, my audience for western genre is looking for unbounded, take-no-prisoners, true-to-life action.  It’s about grit and passion, but also very much about the honesty associated with America’s western frontier.  They’ll find that honesty in my novels coupled with my unfettered balanced treatment of the cultures that populated the Nueces Strip of mid-1800s Texas.  Slavery and abolition, Indians, bandits, prostitution, sanctity of life, and more…are woven within the pages of my narratives.  As Cowboy Mike Searles reminded everyone at the WWA Convention, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”  I for one am committed to opposing censorship, especially in the arts.   After all, when you kill a culture’s stories, you do kill the culture.  Censorship kills cultures.

Freedom Isn’t Free

I deeply appreciate my growing following of loyal fans of the Tumbleweed Sagas.  I’m going to use today’s post to talk about the American frontier and freedom in light of the current pandemic.  Oh, and just so no one gets their pants bent out of shape, I’m not aiming to foment rebellion, just lookin’ to get folks thinking about freedoms as maybe folks 150 years ago might have.

Perhaps, you share my concerns about preserving our liberties and rights during this time of stay-at-home orders, quarantines, restrictions on gatherings, virus testing, surveillance, and so on connected with this COVID-19 pandemic.  Judging from media op-eds and seeing paranoiac posts on social media these days, folks seem to raise justifiable concerns as to how many of our liberties might be forever lost.  I do think it’s appropriate to talk about our liberty in comparison with the American west of the 1850s and what might be considered to have been the last great revolution for freedom.  As author of western genre fiction set in an era when the American west was being tamed by folks mostly looking for a second chance at life, I get to creatively weave in how they protected their hard-won and at times elusive freedoms.  Many had escaped the perceived freedom-sapping social and political injustices broiling in the east.  They sought the sense of freedom associated with tall mountains, big skies, crystalline waterways, and fresh air.  The Sioux and Kiowa and Comanche already lived that freedom.  But the mightier forces of westward-bound frontiersmen, gold-seekers, and settlers supplanted them.  Once established in their new-found lands, they became quite protective of their newly won freedoms.

We are rightly concerned about the COVID-19 responses that seem to be putting our liberties at risk.  People often compare it to the Spanish flu of 1918, but many other pandemics have existed.  Yellow fever was widespread.  It struck Corpus Christi back in 1867 and killed 11 percent of the city population, including a half dozen of my own ancestors.  They had no idea it was caused by a female mosquito.  Folks that caught the fever hunkered and sweated it out until they recovered or died.  Others simply continued their lives as ranchers, farmers, merchants, smithies, or whatever.  No hunkering down.


Is 2020 all that different from a hundred or two hundred years ago?  Maybe in terms of more people and more technology.  Were people any less intelligent a century or so ago? Did they give up freedoms to the extent we’re being called to do?  While a single COVID-19 death is too much, how much freedom are we willing to give up to slow the progression of deaths?  Is there a law of diminishing returns as suicides mount, “elective” surgery folks endure pain, drug addicts scream for help, citizens fear criminals released from our jails?  Can closed businesses hope to recover?  What of the collateral effects of ensuing poverty?  All lives are so very precious, but so is freedom.  What is our price?

As an example of the value placed on freedom, I was struck by my cousin Patrick Dunn’s feelings about freedom back at the turn of the 19th century.  For several decades, he owned and successfully ranched North Padre Island adjacent to Corpus Christi, Texas.  He sold his rights to the island in 1920.  To the end of his days, he regretted the sale.  He equated the island with its grasses, sand dunes, and easy sea breezes to a sense of freedom not to be found on the mainland much less anywhere else on earth.  Seems Patrick Dunn truly captured the essence of freedom.  Freedom is life.

What will be the nature of our liberties after the crisis of the coronavirus has passed?  As a life-long student of history, I offer up a thought about the old west as best expressed by my famed author cousin Mary Maude Dunn Wright (aka Lilith Lorraine) back in 1932, “Not in the spirit of judging their actions by artificial standards which in their day had no existence, but by asking ourselves if we were in their places, should we have acquitted ourselves as well…?”  My Tumbleweed Sagas beg readers to answer that question.  How much fight is in you to protect our freedoms?  Could we acquit ourselves as well as our frontier ancestors in protecting our liberties?  There’s an oft-quoted phrase, “freedom isn’t free.”  Folks gone before us at times paid the ultimate price to attain it.  Would you?

I contend that the experience of the main character in my novels, Texas Ranger Captain Luke Dunn delivering justice and redemption to preserve hard-won freedoms across the vast Nueces Strip of the 1850s, has parallels in today’s world.  Readers and listeners are drawn to the built-in raw edginess and pace of the Tumbleweed Sagas in its all-too-real frontier era setting where freedoms could command a high – even ultimate – price.

Thanks again to my growing following of Tumbleweed Sagas enthusiasts, as Nueces Reprise continues to exceed sales expectations.  I do appreciate every review that’s posted.  My latest Saga, Nueces Reprise, is available online in print, audio, or eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from my publisher at defiancepress.com.  And you just might want to read or listen to Nueces Justice, the first Tumbleweed Saga.   Thanks. Y’all stay safe and protect your freedoms ya hear.

Why Buy Nueces Justice?

Think on:  “…us, who, born in the midst of peace and plenty, now find ourselves floundering rather hopelessly in the quagmires of political impotency and spiritual confusion?”  Mary Maude Dunn Wright (aka Lilith Lorraine) 1932

Why would any self-respecting person purchase a copy of Nueces Justice?  While I appreciate the western genre legacies of Louis L’Amour, William Johnstone, and Larry McMurtry, I do bring a refreshing sort of spin to western fiction.  Be assured, the Tumbleweed Sagas aren’t your grandparents’ western novels.  As to Nueces Justice, if you’re gonna climb into that saddle, be ready for the ride.  And ride it will be, as sequels will be along right soon.

Now, if you like history, you’ll find it in Nueces Justice.  After all, westerns represent a slice of Americana.  If you’re up for action; well, they say courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.  Looking for romance?  Yep, there’s a bit of romance, too.  Of course, there’s justice; the consequence of lawbreaking.  So, if you’ve got the good sense to spit downwind, this novel is for you.

But, why buy Nueces Justice?  I urge you to reread the “think on” quote above.  It’s actually from my cousin in the introduction she wrote for her father’s biography, The Perilous Trails of Texas.  Nueces Justice will transport you on an adventure to an era long past so as to better understand the trail you’re on today.  Might you have acquitted yourself as well as the settlers of the frontier, brought order to chaos, cleared a wilderness, forged a birthright of peace and plenty, safeguarded freedom?  Set on the Texas Nueces Strip of 1856, Nueces Justice will help you to better understand the mindset of the folks that built the west, that built our heritage of which Lilith Lorraine laments.

I invite you to purchase Nueces Justice today and share in the adventures of protagonist Texas Ranger Captain Luke Dunn whose life becomes forever etched on the vast prairies of the Nueces Strip.  His quest for bringing lawbreakers to justice creates a cycle of hunters becoming the hunted, as cattle thieves, whores, murderers, and Comanche are woven into this tale of the Texas frontier that stretches from Corpus Christi to Laredo.  Indeed, Luke Dunn forges the heritage that underpins the Texas of today.  Release by Defiance Press & Publishing is July 30 in print, audio, and eBook, and discounted pre-order is available today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other popular outlets.  Thanks. Y’all take care now.

Faith & Family Tamed Texas

In Psalm 49:12-13, we are advised “People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish.  This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.”

In the taming of the vast rough and tumble south Texas frontier, faith and family played an especially important role.  Faith bound families and communities together while sustaining a critical level of morality in the face of often unscrupulous forces.  Those who in today’s culture seek to marginalize faith and family need to reverse course and recognize the great value of these key ingredients toward sustaining our nation.

My own immigrant ancestors were Irish Catholics, having escaped British persecution in the 1840s and 1850s.  Following are excerpts from my historical autobiographical novel about my great great grandfather, Nicholas Dunn as told in Long Larry Dunn.  First here’s a description of Nicholas’s father’s house as described in family archives: “The parlor featured horse-hair upholstered furniture, marble top tables, rich mahogany finishes, and ornately framed pictures of the famed Irish heroes Daniel O’Connell and Robert Emmet, as well as a large painting of all the Popes from Pope Peter to Pope Leo XIII.

The Dunn family historians went on to describe the nature of the family’s faith as they settled near Corpus Christi, “Our Catholic faith easily integrated with the pre-existing Spanish culture, as they too were mostly Catholic.  We were a God-fearing lot, good Catholics to the bone.  My father was the right-hand man of the bishops, priests, and sisters of the parish.  I understood that at one time or another virtually all of the Sacraments had been delivered in my father’s house except Holy Orders.”  I find it hard to imagine a greater commitment, but there’s more.

The Dunn family contributed charitably to their faith community, “I’d be remiss not to share that my father and my brother John were instrumental in the establishment of St. Patrick’s Church in Corpus Christi.  Its first priest was Dublin-born Father Bernard O’Reilly.  Prior to Father O’Reilly, the area had been served by the pastor from Victoria, Texas, County Mayo-born Father James Fitzgerald.  My father also gave over a portion of his land that later would become St. Theresa’s Catholic Church along what is today called Up River Road.”  As you’ve by now fully gathered, my family like many on the Texas frontier was very much involved in the Catholic Church and wrapped in their Christian faith.

Dun family church involvement continues to this day, as a cousin, Father Bob Dunn serves as much-loved Parish Priest at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in the Corpus Christi Diocese and many other descendants are involved in Catholic and Protestant faiths.  To my thinking, faith in Christ keeps Texas “tamed” in a manner of speaking.

Nicholas Dunn and his wife Andree Ann had nine children, losing two before their first birthday and another dying as a young teen.  Other family members were lost to yellow fever.  Life on the Nueces Strip could seem unforgiving.  Yet they endured, loved, prayed, and hoped.  They built a life of significance in a secure world of their choosing and achieved the satisfaction of having tamed the land for future generations.  Our socialism-promoting politicians and elitist academics that marginalize Christianity could indeed learn a lot from the taming of the Nueces Strip.

I do suggest that we need to take Psalm 49:12-13 to heart.  Just sayin’.

Healing Our Divides

In Romans 12:18, we are advised “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.”

Seems like great advice for the United States today.  After all, the sort of nation we’re going to be and the sort of life we citizens live depends on each of us. Attitude seems to be important.  Tumbleweed has observed that negative attitude tends to lead to negative outcomes while positive usually leads to positive.   Fascinating.  Seems we have divides that need healing.

If we’re to believe certain elements in our political infrastructure, many of us qualify as gun-toting bible thumpers, deplorables, and dregs of society.  Lest you be wondering, those appellations are from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden, respectively.  Throw in Resist, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Women’s March, the KKK, white supremacists, Nation of Islam, and a few other organizations, and we have quite an array of angry, condescending, elitist, fire-breathing, glitterati arrayed in the morass called social politics.  Hate and vitriol are their weapons of choice.  Words like sexism, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and more are thrown about as hate chaff.  There’s certainly nothing positive to endear them to us, and we should not expect positive attitudes from among them.  They are divides cutting us apart.

Tumbleweed has further observed that this hate and discontent didn’t begin with the recent elections, though the outcome thereof seemed to exacerbate the vitriol and division.  Now, Tumbleweed could go on here about social ills in general and could endeavor to place much of the blame to the rise of cultural Marxism in our midst, but suffice for now to simply label it societal misanthropy.  Oh, and we tend to forget that we’re a Republic, not a pluralistic democracy.  Generations in our midst don’t understand the difference.

Lest we forget, a war was fought in our nation over deep divides more than 150 years ago and millions died.  Violence was endemic for years before and after.  We can point to vignettes of political turmoil from Aaron Burr killing Alexander Hamilton to John Wilkes Boothe assassinating Abraham Lincoln to Lee Harvey Oswald assassinating John Kennedy to James Earl Ray murdering Martin Luther King and more.  When and how might such violence, such weaponized hatred end?

We need to step back, take deep breaths, and reflect on civility, respect, and love and the freedom from fear they imply.  If nations are formed to provide for common defense, then we need to ensure that such defense is provided against both the internal and external forces that would deprive us of our freedoms.  We must heal the divides among us without compromising our natural rights and freedom.  I do suggest that we need to take Romans 12:18 to heart.  Just sayin’.


Tumbleweed Talks – The Education Dilemma

Nobel Prize Winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats defined education: Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Tumbleweed notes that insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the U.S. public education system as currently manifest is total insanity.  It fails us miserably.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some great dedicated teachers and loving concerned parents; it’s just that the system has let them down…big time.

John Dewey is generally regarded as the father of modern public education.  To put modern in context, Dewey lived 100+ years ago.  Yet Dewey is adored even today by liberal progressives.  However, critics blame him for the decline of American education.  Dewey believed that our democracy must be transformed first by a revolution in education, followed by a social and economic revolution.  His idea was to indoctrinate through education to create a more pliable populace for the transformation.  Little wonder that he was highly regarded by and sympathetic to Marxism.  Like the Bolsheviks, Dewey sought the elimination of religion from the public square, especially the schools.  While he was a Communist sympathizer for many years, he eventually recanted, though Marxist influence pervaded his life work and the evolution of U.S. public education.  We can’t ignore U.S. education history without mentioning now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  When she was an attorney with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, she expounded regularly on building a massive system of child care in the nation such that wives and mothers would be free to join the workforce.  In a huge way, the public education system served that need.

So, what is this education dilemma?  Tumbleweed contends that today’s U.S. public education system is a system of competing interests representing Federal and state education departments, teacher unions, academia, curricula publishers, education bureaucrats, and politicians.  As John Dewey imagined, this system has facilitated the insertion of revisionist socio-political philosophies into the material taught in our public schools.  It enables the perpetuation of powerful interests in an archaic one-size-fits-all system often referred to as the Prussian model.  It has duped millions of parents into believing that it is infallible.  It subjugates individualism to a government system under the guise of some fallacious socialization for the “greater good.”

Education is huge, a behemoth representing nearly 6 percent of our GDP, one of the highest rates in the world.  Yet, there’s been a broken trust.  In his recently published book Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past, James Robbins notes that “schooling is necessary to the development not only of a well-rounded person but also of a strong society.  But tearing down traditional history and civics education leaves children weak in these areas.  With the growing intolerance for the exchange of ideas in colleges and universities, basic knowledge of American identity has become confused.  Students no longer know what America stands for, becoming more aware of what divides us than of what unites us.  This thinking begins in the public-school system.

There’s a certain irony here that is actually rather ludicrous.  Just before I joined the board of the school district where I live in in Pennsylvania, it was ranked well into the bottom half of the commonwealth’s 500 school districts.  This in a state that ranked in the bottom third in the nation.  Yet the school had parents convinced it was a top-performing district.  Broken trust?  Most parents are concerned that their children receive a good education that will prepare them for the challenges to be faced in the world.  Parents have an almost totally blind, even naive trust that public schools will deliver that good education, but the education blob leverages that trust to perpetuate its own agendas while wasting billions of dollars on scams like open classrooms or Common Core Standards that mortgage our nation’s future with flawed curricula and excessive time-wasting testing.  Notably, the students who do well in spite of the education system usually do so because their parents care enough to stay actively involved in their education.  Otherwise, they are taught in most cases to the lowest common denominator.  And it serves to frustrate teachers and often chase good ones from the system.  Plus, teacher pay actually declined over the past two decades while per-pupil spending increased by 27 percent.  School districts are saddled with budget-busting debt and profligate retirement systems.  The outcome as Tumbleweed has experienced it is undereducated graduates unable to perform common everyday functions as simple as a signature on a check or credit receipt or reading a tape measure.  Reading skills are at times horribly deficient.  We dare not lose sight of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said that the sage in the exercise of his governance, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.  Emptying the mind facilitates control.  Dare we refer here to the mindless drivel that passes for education in today’s institutions of higher learning wherein students are unfamiliar with simple civics, unable to name our nation’s leaders, and totally oblivious to the tenets of our Constitution.  Sadly, this is perpetuated by those Federal and state departments of education, teacher unions, colleges and universities, curricula publishers, education bureaucrats, and politicians so they can covet and protect their pieces of the power structure.

            Bottom line, it’s a fraudulent system.  Parents should be outraged, but they mostly stand by benignly as the education system self-destructs at their children’s and our nation’s expense.  For example, in most school districts nationwide, where were parents and Board members when it came time to actually review Common-Core-based curricula page-by page?  I’ve seen that lack of involvement first hand, and we see the result in ever-more progressive socialism-based curricula indoctrinating precious generations of our children.  Equally bad is good teachers being hamstrung by this failed education system, spending inordinate time on standardized testing while scrambling to teach at least some skeletal level of knowledge with the remaining time.  Moreover, under-performing teachers are protected by tenure and receive salary increases regardless of performance. (How many private sector folks would love that?)  The system is a fraud, a total con.  It’s little more than a large, expensive child-care with some education layered in.

So, I’ve framed out the challenge.  Now what?  In my experience most folks from both sides of the political spectrum agree that problems exist.  BUT, how do we solve them?

Let’s first look at local solutions.  We need schools that educate, but throwing money at the problems without achieving true education improvement is a fool’s game.  Without taxpayer largesse propping up their inefficient business model, public schools couldn’t survive.  Academics must be improved and budget austerity must be sustained in an environment of often declining enrollments and ever-lowering tax bases as populations age and dwindle.  (Today’s Millennials aren’t exactly filling the maternity wards.) Progressive-leaning student indoctrination must be squashed, as teachers graduate from colleges featuring overwhelmingly left-of-center political bias.  Bullying must be stopped, and the perpetrators – not the victims – must be punished.  School debt must be eliminated.  It’s imperative to set aggressive agendas for improved academic performance.  STEM and reading programs must be elevated.  Practical labor trades training must be promoted and delivered.  Teaching and learning must feature high goals, give top priority to instructional time, offer ample bonuses for outstanding teachers, and get parents actively involved at ALL grade levels.

Next, let’s consider state solutions.  At higher government levels, states need to end programs like Common Core Standards and associated mind-numbing, resource-wasteful tests, as well as overhaul budget-killing, overly-generous, public-school employee retirement systems to control exponentially rising costs.  These costs cause both school budgets and taxes to increase but not to the direct benefit of students, as public-schools must accommodate those rising retirement system costs.  Budgets must continue to be optimized to meet these concerns without raising taxes that especially impact low/fixed-income citizens and drive them from our communities.  Oh, and the Federal government needs to totally steer clear of education; it’s well above its pay grade.  Best way to do that is to totally eliminate the Department of Education.  It rose to power as part of an NEA voter pact with President Jimmy Carter and has metastasized ever since.  Oh, and do you know any politicians that got elected on a platform of cutting education budgets?  Heaven forbid that we follow the philosophy that it’s not how much money is spent, but how well the money is spent!  Let’s be real.  It’s not about spending more money, it’s about spending it more productively.

Solutions.  In an era of ever easier access to sophisticated technology applications like artificial intelligence or AI based interactive learning, choices in delivering education have grown by orders of magnitude.  Thanks to technology, we can throw away the supposed magic of low student-teacher ratios.  AI-based programs have a 20-year track record of being capable of delivering educational material with 99.6 percent effectiveness compared to a classroom teacher.  Take note of the plethora of online courses available today.  In addition to choices and material customized for individual students, technology has the added benefit of saving taxpayers the expense of brick and mortar infrastructure and large administrative departments.  Great teachers will be able to reach more students more effectively.  And testing students for knowledge retention AS THEY STUDY makes more sense than relying on post-course comprehensive testing.  We might even empower employers to create environments that enable parents to teach and monitor children remotely in both individual and group cooperative environments.  These sorts of solutions destroy the archaic child-care-based public school model and push parents into greater child-rearing responsibility.  We need a radical change in attitude toward education, an openness to new, innovative models.

We must fight back.  Tumbleweed, like many citizens, homeschooled.  My wife and I were nevertheless impacted by public schools as citizens and were concerned about high quality education outcomes.  Our public-school systems are indeed broken but not beyond repair.  The grown-ups must set positive, constructive, adult examples for the students.  Now is when students should truly get to be first.  Boards, parents, administrators, teachers, and students must team to turn back the government public education system behemoth and its legacy of failure.  School choice is an absolute must.  Our children must be prepared to get on in the real world.  We must see that schools deliver practical knowledge for life and careers through optimally educating our children.  If the government education system does continue on its relentlessly destructive path, great alternatives that exist today for parents to fight back include charter schools, home schooling, and private schools.  We just need to get off our collective posteriors and straighten the mess out.  Just sayin’.

Ethics & Morals

Think on: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” EXODUS 20:16

High, unimpeachable, consistently applied ethics and morals are essential to our success in all aspects of life.  In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge said, “If we are too weak to take charge of our own morality, we shall not be strong enough to take charge of our own liberty.”  Enron and Worldcom were just two modern-day examples of how everyone – not just the company employees – pays for unethical workplace practices.  Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance now costs companies millions of dollars which are then passed on to consumers.  Dodd-Frank compliance, legislative reaction to unethical banking practices, compounds that cost.  Both laws were “knee-jerk” legislation in response to perceived failures of securities regulation enforcement.

Examples of unethical practices in business abound.  In addition to the huge Enron and Worldcom scandals of the 1990s, there were the Archer Daniels Midland price fixing scandal brought to light by whistleblower Mark Whitacre, the Koss (headphones) internal $31 million fraud perpetrated by its vice president of finance, the case of CFO Sam Antar who bilked hundreds of millions from consumer electronics chain Crazy Eddie, CFO Aaron Beam’s $2.7 billion accounting fraud at HealthSouth Corporation, and there was Martha Stewart’s insider stock trading and Bernie Madoff’s investment scam.  The corporate executives pay the price for their behaviors, but the investors and consumers never really are compensated.  What can we do?  I’ve personally had sales executives attempt to bribe me to get a sale and even was passed files of corporate secrets from a competitor.  These are among the more heinous lies, especially as they are criminal.

Today’s moral relativism is rooted in moral values that far too often have become a matter of personal opinion or private judgment rather than something grounded in objective truth.  Mostly, it’s about our own selfishness, our immediate gratification mindset; the “I, me, mine” thinking of narcissistic hedonism.   It describes how most of today’s Millenial Generation…and many Baby-Boomers…define their morality.  In my 8 years of teaching as a college adjunct, I have asked hundreds of students what they base their morals on, and very few profess biblical morality.  These students are being fed a “do good, feel good” morality professed by the generations that preceded them and have been raised in a fully atheistic public-school environment.  Little wonder we seem to be breeding successive generations of corporate fraudsters.

Tumbleweed believes that the one of the biggest manifestations of corrupt ethics and morals is the lie.  As an inveterate collector of quotations, a couple that come readily to mind are Mark Twain’s, “A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.” and John F. Kennedy, “The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and realistic.”  What parent can forget “Veggie Tales,” especially the episode about the lie.  Or, recall actor Burl Ives famous reference to “mendacity” in the film, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

For me, the scariest and most tragic lies are those that are rationalized or justified by some relative interpretation of morality.  And perhaps even worse are lies that emanate from the perspective that someone’s lie is okay because someone else had gotten away with it previously – as though that makes it less of a lie.  We see that a lot in politics but in business, as well.

So, I’m afraid it does get down to the basics of ethics and morality.  I rather like Colossians 3:9, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices.”  It can be tough to resist the lure of compromising our ethics and morality, but we cannot serve two masters.  It’s man or God.   What’s your choice?  Just sayin’.


Violence & Vitriol vs Peace & Joy

Think On: “May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies, and quick to make friends.  And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.” IRISH PROVERB

Tumbleweed continues to be horrified at the lack of civility that characterizes today’s leftist progressives.  The far-left progressive choir wallows unhinged in vitriol as they spew forth all manner of hatred for our President, his supporters, and many of the founding principles of our nation.  It’s too easy to write them off as a bunch of whining children throwing a massive temper tantrum.  However, it’s certainly not the first time.  The leftist hatred has been palpable for decades.

First, let’s get a bit of perspective.  That Irish proverb resonates with Tumbleweed.  Also, let’s keep in our consciousness the words from James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  Be assured, perseverance in the face of anger and vitriol is very much in play here.

Back in the 1920s, the liberal left was motivated by Communists lying about Marxism, as the left was easily duped by the Bolshevik propaganda machine.  They attacked Woodrow Wilson and his Attorney General Alex Palmer, painting them as stupid, bloodthirsty anti-Communist savages stirring up a “Red scare.”  The leftist rants didn’t lighten up in the 1930s and 1940s, as the Hollywood liberal elite, leftist academia, and news media (led by the New York Times), harangued Congress as behaving like Hitler’s Germany, supporting fascism, and setting up America as a concentration camp or an Auschwitz.  Famed entertainers of the era like Danny Kaye, Judy Garland, and Gene Kelly spewed the Communist party line.  Even Humphrey Bogart was duped for a while.  Moving into the 1950s, the leftists turned there hate on President Harry Truman, attacking him as the “butcher of Hiroshima” and an enemy of the Soviet state.  Truman was vilified in the media as a warmonger and another Hitler.

Of course, Tumbleweed is scratching the surface.  There’s a temptation to view the Vietnam era of the 1960s and 1970s as the pinnacle of left-wing anti-Americam anger and vitriol.  The USSR, which had a vested interest in the Communist Viet Cong, ramped up a huge propaganda machine enlisting American liberals into convincing U.S. citizens that the Vietnam War was a losing proposition.  Emboldened by their success in controlling public opinion and causing the pullout from Viet Nam, the left sought to build upon their success.  They had torn into one-time Democrat turned conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan, blasting his “Star Wars” missile defense system (actually, Strategic Defense Initiative or SDI) as a threat to cause a third world war.  A leader in undercutting Reagan was none other than liberal darling and hero of Chappaquiddick Senator Ted Kennedy who secretly proposed a deal with Soviet Supreme Leader Yuri Andropov to sabotage SDI in return for USSR support for his own presidential ambitions.  Blessedly, along came the tearing down of “The Wall” along with the socio-economic implosion of the USSR, momentarily taken the wind from the far-left sails.

The Communist threat seemed defused until a succession of progressive-leaning presidencies succumbed to the ascension of former KGB muscleman Vladimir Lenin.  Leveraging terrorism spawned from the Middle East and supported directly by Iran and North Korea, the Russian propaganda machine was rejuvenated and brought to bear to once again recruit liberal progressives in the United States.  Who emerges?  The likes of “Swiftboat” John Kerry, Maxine Waters, and Harry Reid expounded total hatred of President George W. Bush, calling him a liar and betrayer of the nation.  The vitriol quotient was rising exponentially.  Soon enough Barack Hussein Obama arrives on the scene spawning supporters like ACORN and the SEIU and inciting the Hollywood, journalistic, and academic elite to spew forth all manner of hate speech and violent protest.

So, here we are today.  It’s as though Lenin’s “useful idiots” have gone into overdrive.  Supposedly reasonably intelligent politicians, journalists, academicians, and entertainers are caught up in the extreme emotions of hate and exercise of violence.  The vitriol is off the charts, as foul language and unfounded accusations blast across television screen banners and spew forth from the mouths of liberal talking heads.  They seize upon the most insignificant action to go nuclear with their vitriol.  The President can do no right nor no wrong without negative over-reaction.  How sad, indeed.

Hmmmm.  In the United States, we have this little matter of a Constitution that defines how we are governed.  Donald Trump was duly and properly elected by gaining far more Electoral College votes than his opponent.  In establishing the Electoral College, our founding fathers had in mind that representation of the less-populated states would not be diminished.  The idea was to not have the entire nation run by urban centers like New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles while ignoring our vast and just as important heartland.  It’s a similar principle to why we have two Senators from each state versus our Representatives as proportioned by population.

Now, Tumbleweed was far from pleased with the election of Barack Hussein Obama as president.  But the voters – and Electoral College – had spoken, so we strove to accept the results.  Despite the perceived scandals, lies, and far-left progressive autocratic actions of President Obama over the next 8 years, we kept our powder dry until we could elect Donald Trump in November 2016.  There were no violent protests or unhinged vitriol from the conservative right during President Obama’s administration.  Admittedly, while there was peace, there was not much joy.

Tumbleweed reminds of that Irish proverb that concludes with, And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.”   Tumbleweed is especially taken with part of the refrain of the Switchfoot song “Rise Above it,” “It feels so typical, Guess I’m looking for a miracle; Rise above it rise above it; The curse is spoken, The system’s broken; Rise above it, Rise above it.”  The left really needs to rise above it.  Just sayin’.

School Shooting Facts or Fiction: It Depends

Think on: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” MARK TWAIN

Tumbleweed must confess to having actually conducted market research projects.  Market research can be a fascinating area whereby response statistics are gathered, analyzed, and outcomes reported.  Notably, how you ask the question can dictate outcomes, even “engineering” desired outcomes.  Statistics can be shaped and recipients duped.  Think on Mark Twain’s caution.

A few days back, Tumbleweed saw a social media feed announcing that dozens of school shootings had occurred since the beginning of the year.  There had certainly been a couple of mass shootings of grave concern, but the number quoted – 44 – intuitively seemed misleading.  The source of the number was an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety.  Turns out it is a favored resource of the left-wing anti-gun movement.  Mind you, our hearts go out to those whose loved ones were killed or injured, but it seems hypocritical, even deceptive to leverage tragedy for political advantage.

According to its website, “Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives.  But something is changing. More than 4 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans have come together to make their own communities safer. Together, we are fighting for the changes that we know will save lives.”  Sounds worthy enough.  Then, Tumbleweed dug deeper.

Tumbleweed examined each of the 44 incidents in 2018 reported as school shootings through May 21.  We dare not diminish the three horrific mass school shootings at Santa Fe, Texas; Benton, Kentucky; and Parkland, Florida that account for the vast majority of deaths and woundings in the data.  But what of the other 42 incidents.  Thirteen were accidental firearm discharge and 19 of the 44 shootings resulted in no injuries.  Eleven incidents resulted in one or more deaths, including the three suicides.  Thirty-nine involved a handgun, while five used a rifle or shotgun (two AR-15s).  Overall, among 34 K-12 shootings and 10 college shootings, 39 lives were lost and 66 people were injured.  Eleven incidents involved non-students, and in two cases metal detectors were not in use or broken.  Any shooting is scary, deaths and injuries are terrible tragedies.

There are 98,000 K-12 facilities in the United States and 7,200 post-secondary institutions.  Cold, unemotional analysis would reveal that the percentage of incidents – despite tragic consequences – are statistically insignificant (0.0004 percent).  Statistically at least, our institutions are pretty safe.  Keep in mind, too, that many of the incidents reported in 2018 could have been readily avoided.

Everytown for Gun Safety statistics are startling, but hardly a rationale for taking away the right to bear arms.  Everytown is inexcusably deceptive, as it plays with truth.  There are preventive means that are far more complex and effective than stripping away our Second Amendment rights.  The over-reaction of the gun lobby certainly reflects shades of Mark Twain’s caution, as they repeatedly seize tragedies to leverage their anti-firearm message.  Analyzing statistics doesn’t bring back lives or heal wounds, but misusing statistics to gain political ends is a horrific tactic.  Tumbleweed suggest always looking at the political motivations underlying statistics.  Just sayin’.